Diving in Deep: Hardcore Championship Battle Royal (2000)
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
During this 'Diving in Deep' series, we will take an in depth look at wrestling matches from the past, as well as the performers within them. Discussing the status of the latter at the time of the bout, alongside the importance of the match itself... we will be diving in deep!
Relatively absurd in nature, the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hardcore Championship holds a significant place in the nostalgic memory of the fabled 'Attitude Era'. Whilst continuing to hold this real-estate within the hearts of long-time WWE fans due to its brutal and lawless aesthetic, few championship bouts epitomise a title in the same way as Wrestlemania 2000's Hardcore Championship Battle Royal. For reasons that are good, bad and ugly.
As chaotic and disordered as it was inane and entertaining, this match was fought in 'scramble' style with numerous champions crowned throughout. But who were the combatants that were given their Wrestlemania moments in this car-crash affair?
1. Crash Holly
A veritable 'heavyweight' of the Hardcore division Crash Holly had a whopping 22 reigns with the ragged and tattered belt. The grandfather of the currently replicated 24/7 rule, Holly was a stable of WWE television at the time and remains criminally underrated to this day.
Given the gimmick of an undersized forever underdog, Crash and his antics elevated the Hardcore title to a level that had yet to be seen. Whether fighting in a fun house, being pinned by wrestling legends or somehow always finding a way to regain the title, Crash Holly was ALWAYS entertaining.
Demanding to be billed as as a 'Super Heavyweight' at over 400 pounds, Crash's ability to embrace being the brunt of the joke allowed this yappy terrier of a wrestler to forge a place for himself at the forefront of this 'no-rules' division.
It all led to WrestleMania 2000 and the first-ever Hardcore Battle Royal for the title. In order to emerge from The Showcase of the Immortals with his championship, he would have to endure 15 minutes of brutality at the hands of some of the toughest, roughest competitors on the roster.
Entering this 13-man bout as the defending Hardcore Champion, Crash would have once again left as the champion had their not been a legitimate error at the end of the match
Just when it seemed as though the "Elroy Jetson of the WWE," as Jim Ross referred to him, would escape with his prize possession, a botched call cost him the title (more on that later).
A clear crowd favourite prior to and during the match, Crash's ability to seemingly always retain his title allowed for a clear narrative to run throughout the match, with this storytelling allowing for more gravitas and meaning in this otherwise lawless scene.
2. Hardcore Holly
The unplanned winner of the match, Crash's storyline cousin was another integral part of the WWE's Hardcore division. Following a stint tagging with his cousin, Hardcore and Crash feuded over the tittle ahead of the Wrestlemania match.
Generally regarded as one of the legitimately toughest WWE superstars of all time, Bob 'Hardcore' Holly seemed to be perfect for the rough and tough aesthetic of the Hardcore Championship. A veteran at the time, Bob Holly was tasked largely with helping Crash 'get over', but added a sense of credibility to the 13-man mayhem on this particular night. As aforementioned, he was feuding with his cousin at the time of Wrestlemania 2000 and thus it was no surprise that it was those two that would play a part in the culmination of the match. In fact, in hindsight, the two could have battled without their fellow cast of hardcore misfits and it may have been a better match in execution and storyline. That said, the botched finish of this occasion puts that in doubt too.
Crash Holly entered with it around his waist, but dropped it to Tazz within 26 seconds. It took him 14 minutes to eventually regain it. Although the original plan was to have Crash retain, his cousin Hardcore took the victory after cracking the champ with a jar of sweets.
Supposedly, the plan was to have time expire before referee Tim White could count the pinfall. Unfortunately, Hardcore Holly attempted the pin far too early and White counted two before noticeably delaying the third to allow time to expire. WWE audibled, played Hardcore's music and gave him the belt, however the mistake was clear to see.
In all honesty, attempting to construct such a succinct finished in the midst of such bizarre chaos may have been questionable from the offset.
3. The Mean Street Posse
What can be said about Pete Gas, Joey Abs and Rodney? Brought in to the WWE as Shane McMahons lackeys and insurance policy, Rodney and Gas were legitimate school friends of Shane O'Mac, with Abs employed as the 'worker' of the stable.
Though their run was short, the trio managed to find their way into the Hardcore division following their turn on Shane and became quintessential 'enhancement' talents. Though originally able to garner heat from the audience, the Posse's booking suggested their role in this Battle Royal was to fill out the numbers.
Nonetheless, the 3 sweater vest wearing 'hardmen' from the "Mean Streets of Greenwich" were able to portray the roles of comedic foils well enough in this bout. This included all 3 members holding the belt at some point throughout the match, with Rodney pinning Funaki, Abs pinning Rodney and Gas pinning Headbanger Thrasher.
As harsh as it sounds, the trio are a relative footnote of the WWE's Attitude Era, but the Mean Street Posse can at least say that they have competed at Wrestlemania. And given that they were all wrestling fans, that's a dreamlike achievement.
4. The APA
Following a stint as 'the muscle' of The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness, 2000 saw the hard-nosed duo rechristened The Acolyte Protection Agency after the aforementioned Mean Street Posse offered to pay for their protection services.
Though they would later become involved in the Hardcore division when hired by Crash Holly, their role in this Wrestlemania bout was evident for all to see. Again, the APA were 'the muscle'.
A much needed juggernaut influence on the match, both Farooq and Bradshaw added stiff, hard and seemingly legitimate shots in an otherwise weapon-centric affair. That said, the beefy tandem were not shy in using weapons with similar force to that of their strikes and surprisingly neither man held the title at any point amidst the melee.
Perhaps a step down from their previous roles in the tag team division, this bout ultimately acted as somewhat of a prelude to an entertaining two year run for the 'hired protection'. With Ron 'Farooq' Simmons already in the WWE Hall of Fame, it would be no surprise to see John Bradshaw Layfield following suit soon.
5. The Headbangers
Consisting of Mosh and Thrasher, The Headbangers debuted in 1996 as an increasingly bizarrely clad pair of metalheads. Winning the Tag Team Championships once in 1997, the duo were a seemingly inevitable part of the then WWF's undercard.
However, following a legitimate injury to Thrasher prior to the 1999 Royal Rumble, the tag tea were split and Mosh was rechristened as the 'less said about that the better', Beaver Cleavage. As Thrasher returned to fitness the duo reunited to fairly limited fanfare and found themselves mixed up in the Hardcore division come Wrestlemania season in 2000.
In fact, March 16th 2000 saw a highly memorable Attitude Era skit in which The Headbangers pursued then Hardcore Champion, The Houdini of Hardcore, Crash Holly in a local 'funhouse'. Including a high speed chase down a children's slide, this footage serves as a nostalgic reminder to the 24/7 nature of the title.
Back to the Battle Royal, looking the most 'at home' in the chaos of the bout - almost a hardcore mosh pit - the misfit duo filled their role aptly, including a 43 second title run for Thrasher after pinning Joey Abs. Though clearly undercard and 'filler' wrestlers, Mosh and Thrasher found their place in a stacked WWE roster.
Originally part of a 5 person all-japanese stable, Taka Michinoku and Sho Funaki hold a place in the hearts of many Attitude Era fans. Often portrayed as no more than a laughing stock, the underdog duo appealed to the WWE fans despite their imposed limitations.
Primarily jobbers, Taka and Funaki were best known for their entrance skits in which English voices were dubbed over their promos as the duo badly lip-synced, with Taka ending what he was 'saying' with "evil!" and Funaki following up by 'saying' "indeed!".
This comedy-based jobber role filtered into their matches, both as a team and as single competitors, with the diminutive wrestlers being thrown around with reckless aplomb.
Providing their now familiar jobber role within this Wrestlemania bout, the duo were thrown onto a prone Viscera by the APA to win the title, however as Funaki was announced as Champion, Taka let out his frustration by punching his fellow countryman. Quickly pinned within 20 seconds, Funaki's reign was short-lived.
A stalwart of the WWF/WWE scene, Viscera was able to spend an accumulative 10 years with the company. A dominating presence at 6 foot 9 tall and almost 500 pounds, the late Nelson Frazier Jr. made the most of his intimidating frame.
Originally debuting as part of the Men on a Mission tag team under the name of Mabel, the super-heavyweight won the 1995 King of the Ring tournament following his adoption of a more thuggish and menacing demeanour. Ultimately, this push was unsuccessful and Mabel left the company a year later.
Following a 2 year hiatus, Mabel returned to the WWF where was was kidnapped by the aforesaid Ministry of Darkness faction, before being reintroduced as Viscera the following night. Now dressed in all black, with a bleached mohawk and white contact lenses, the big-man out of Harlem, New York became the gothic enforcer of The Undertaker's Ministry.
Unfortunately for 'Big Vis', the Ministry disbanded in July of that same year and the giant found himself became in the undercard before long.
Serving the role of 'unbeatable big man' in the Hardcore Championship Battle Royal, Viscera pinned Tazz a minute into the bout to win the title and held it for almost 50% of the match before the numbers game saw him pinned by Kaientai with help from the APA and Thrasher.
Surprisingly mobile for such a large man, Viscera underwent numerous repackagings in the following years and unfortunately holds 3 of the 'Worst of' awards from The Wrestling Observer: Worst Tag Team (1999), Worst Feud (2007) and Worst Worked Match (1993).
A should have been 'big deal', the story of Tazz's WWE run undermines his ECW run prior. Booked in Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling Promotion as an unstoppable suplex machine, Tazz seemed destined for big things when he arrived in WWE. Debuting 3 months prior to this bout at the 2000 Royal Rumble, Tazz submitted the previously undefeated Kurt Angle in front of a raucous home town crowd. His involvement in this Wrestlemania match symbolised a dramatic fall over a short period of time, however his 'extreme' background did add a credibility and legitimacy to the bout. Seemingly one of only three credible match winners - alongside the Holly cousins - Tazz took only 26 seconds to pin champion Crash Holly for the belt at the beginning of the chaos, however lost it to Viscera half a minute later. The Human Suplex Machine recaptured the belt at the 10 minute mark and held on to it up until the final 40 seconds.
A criminally misused wrestler in the WWE, Tazz's placement on the Wrestlemania 2000 card only serves as a showcase for WWE's inability to recognise or utilise the talent they had in front of them.
Unlikely to be remembered as an instant classic, this match likely holds a soft spot in the heart of many longstanding WWE fans. Yes, the match itself was a fairly calamitous and tawdry affair, but isn't that what Hardcore Championship was really about? The chaos, the mess, the misfits and the weapons? This match had it all, and though it'll never come close to the Wrestlemania 17 bout between Raven, Kane and The Big Show, let alone any of the well-worked 'Mania matches of the past, this 15 minutes of mayhem now serves as a visual representation of the Hardcore Championship's existence.
Perhaps far easier to view with jovial, nostalgia-tinted glasses, wrestling fans should enjoy this bout for exactly what it wasn't: a wrestling match.